Review of Broad’s Philosophy of Mary Astell

Jacqueline Broad, The Philosophy of Mary Astell: An Early Modern Theory of Virtue, Oxford University Press, 2015, 205pp., $70.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780198716815.

Reviewed by Penny Weiss, St. Louis University

It is hard to believe that it was only in 1986 that the first two modern books on Mary Astell were published, one a biography, the other a collection of complete and excerpted works. In the 30 years since, all of Astell’s major writings have been made available, several with substantive introductions, and three monographs, an anthology of critical essays, and dozens of academic articles from multiple disciplines have been published. We can now add to the growing list this book by Jacqueline Broad, who has mastered and engages with all of this primary and secondary literature. Broad is the first to read Astell’s texts as parts of “a united and consistent” (5) philosophical system with a moral theory at its core, which she importantly claims is how Astell understood her own work. Broad’s unmistakable grasp of Astell does not always manifest itself evenly; one chapter tackles a particular work while another deals with a theme and yet another makes central a conflict in the secondary literature. Further, one chapter is overwhelmed by comparisons with those who influenced Astell, in another they rarely appear, and in none but the conclusion are contemporary links pursued, though they practically beg to be explored. Nonetheless, everyone will learn from this text, several debates about Astell are resolved in it, and Astell’s philosophical status is generally elevated.

Continue at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews


New Narratives in Philosophy: Rediscovering Neglected Works by Early Modern Women


New Narratives in Philosophy:
Rediscovering neglected works by early modern women

Co-Directed by Andrew Janiak and Marcy Lascano

Hosted at the Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University
Durham, NC, USA
April 14 – 17, 2016

The New Narratives in Philosophy conference will be held at the Ahamdieh FamilyLecture Hall, Franklin Humanities Institute (Smith Warehouse, Bay 4, Duke University.) The four day conference will focus on the early modern philosophers Margaret Cavendish, Anne Conway, and Emilie Du Châtelet and will explore the various aspects of each figure’s primary philosophical works, investigate the relationships between her works and those of her contemporaries, and examine her works in relation to the political, social, ethical, theological, and scientific works of the period. In addition, the final, fourth day of the conference will be devoted to methodological questions that are important for transforming the teaching and study of early modern philosophy. All conference proceedings and materials – video clips, sample syllabi, papers, bibliographies and translated texts – will be disseminated on the Project Vox website, so that philosophers will have everything required to alter the teaching and research of early modern philosophy. The conference is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, with additional funding and support provided by Duke University.

For more information about Project Vox, visit our webpage